Now, ladies, let us get serious Smear tests. They are embarressing, awkward, and in some cases, painful.
I had my first one at 20, I remember the letter arriving on my door step, some sort of ‘coming of age’ – Congratulations, your officially a grown woman! And off I trotted to the G.P surgery to have my first experience of how utterly humiliating it can be to be a woman.
You see, I was not longer living at home, and certainly have no female friends to discuss this with, so I went in blind. There were stirrups, and a metal contraption that was wound open once inserted, and then the swab? YEOWCH!
So I have have had more than a few of these, pretty much every one has been uncomfortable to a degree, and after being repeatedly told I have a small cervix, asked about bleeding after sex, and having anomalies with each result… it is just not something I look forward to. But it is something I still eventually get around to doing, because a moment or 2 of being uncomfortable is a pretty small price to pay. And let’s face it, we are all going to go through it!
I remember vividly Jade Goody, both her rise to fame, and then how important she suddenly became. If you don’t remember, Jade was a pseudo celebrity, but her legacy is discovering she had cervical cancer and she died after a tragically short battle with it. Whilst battling cancer, she campaigned asking people to get their smear test, explaining how important it was, not to leave it, to leave it too late. And following her death, there was a spike in attendance.
However, somewhere between my first test and Jade’s death, the age for your smear test was raised to 25. That may seem like a small jump but it is significant. Getting girls, and women to start this routine early is as important as detecting and catching cancer is. It then becomes habit forming, another check on the to-do list of womanhood. While I understand that there is some medical backing suggesting that waiting until 25 makes some sense, I suspect that this is financially motivated as despite some people’s assumption, the NHS is a business and each letter, each appointment, each test, costs the individual trust money.
Now, speaking of money, where do you get your smear test? It is important to be comfortable with the person and environment. I have switched between GP and Family planning. As I mentioned early, smear tests have never been especially comfortable for me, and especially after moving to Northampton, I tried to do all my family planning, at the family planning clinic. I liked and knew the doctors and nurses there and felt much more comfortable. However, funding changed and now I can only go to my GP to have the test.
So when I called a couple of weeks, imagine my surprise to learn that not only can I only go to my GP to have the smear test, there is only one nurse covering 2 GP practises. Now I am not going to lie, this is not making it any easier!
Now, something that prompted my booking of the test is a post in a FB group that I haunt called Queens of the New Age. There was a status about having a smear test and having glittered the lady garden. I love a challenge so I made sure I had styled my downstairs with some glitter for me appointment and used some Snow Fairy powder to try and keep things fresh.
Things have moved on since my first smear, should I have led with this? Possibly but I don’t like to do things in a sensible order. You will be shown into an examination room by the nurse, asked a couple of questions, and asked to undress – waist down, lie on the couch and place the paper towel over yourself for modesty. A plastic speculum is inserted to allow the nurse to use a ‘brush’ to get a sample of cells. That is is. Now I managed to chat throughout with the nurse, and we joked about the glitter and lack of shaving (an over sight) and it was over in seconds. I have never had such a quick test, and it was completely painless.
What I am saying is that, most people will have completely painfree and painless experiences. You will be seen by a nurse who has seen it all before, probably several times that day before your appointment so you will not be presenting herself with anything new. But I cannot say this enough, please, even though the starting age is 25, do not forget, forego or not book an appointment. It is not even 20 mins of your life every few years that could quite literally, save your life.